How does New­ton com­pare?

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - MARIYA LEWTER mlewter@cov­

The re­cent crime stats re­ported by the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice (NCSO) show a re­cent rise in vi­o­lence in the com­mu­nity. But how do New­ton County’s num­bers com­pare to those of other coun­ties in Ge­or­gia?

There have been five mur­ders in New­ton County in 2016 as of July, while they were seven in 2015 al­to­gether. Ac­cord­ing to Sher­iff Ezell Brown, there have been 13 mur­ders in the last 18 months.

Rock­dale County, New­ton’s neigh­bor­ing county to the west, has had one mur­der in 2016, ac­cord­ing to re­ports gath­ered by the Rock­dale County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. In 2015, the county had four, which is three less than New­ton that same year.

The two coun­ties do, how­ever, cur­rently look iden­ti­cal in one cat­e­gory: as­sault. Both coun­ties have re­ported 67 as­saults so far in 2016 and are on pace to po­ten­tially match or sur­pass their num­bers from 2015: 128 in Rock­dale and 99 in New­ton.

In 2014, New­ton County re­ported three mur­ders, ac­cord­ing to the Ge­or­gia crime sta­tis­tics gath­ered by the Ge­or­gia Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (GBI). That same year, neigh­bor­ing Wal­ton County had four and Mor­gan County had zero. In 2008, when New­ton County saw a high of 10 mur­ders, Mor­gan County had zero and Wal­ton had five.*

Ac­cord­ing to the Wal­ton County’s Uni­form Crime Re­port (UCR), Wal­ton County had zero mur­ders in 2015 and so far in 2016, but the county’s cur­rent to­tal of ag­gra­vated as­saults (30) in 2016 is on pace to sur­pass last year’s to­tal (49).

Nearby Jack­son County has also seen a

spike in ag­gra­vated as­saults. While the county re­ported 35 of these crimes in both 2015 and 2014, there have been 20 mid­way through 2016. The county has also ex­pe­ri­enced eight rob­beries through the first six months of the year ver­sus four in 2015.

Fayette County, a com­mu­nity south of the perime­ter with a sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion size and distance from At­lanta to New­ton County, has rel­a­tively lower crime num­bers in com­par­i­son. Ac­cord­ing to the county’s UCR, the com­mu­nity had one homi­cide and 32 ag­gra­vated as­saults in 2015. In 2010, while New­ton County re­ported 335 vi­o­lent crimes, Fayette re­ported 31. The num­bers for 2016 were un­avail­able at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Of­fi­cer Al­lan See­baran of the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment, the city of Cov­ing­ton has seen its own in­crease in crime that is also con­sis­tent with other sur­round­ing ju­ris­dic­tions. There have been 17 rob­beries as of July 27, which ex­ceeds Cov­ing­ton’s to­tal around this time last year (eight as of July 31, 2015). The same is true for thefts and as­saults. There have been 309 thefts thus far com­pared to 275 dur­ing this time last year and 120 as­saults com­pared to the pre­vi­ous 91. Iden­ti­fy­ing one sole rea­son for the spike in crime is difficult given the unique in­di­vid­ual cases.

“It is hard to opine on the cau­sa­tion for the in­creased vi­o­lent crimes with­out in­ter­view­ing the in­di­vid­u­als com­mit­ting them,” said See­baran. “This is not only a Cov­ing­ton is­sue nor is it just a New­ton County is­sue when it comes to vi­o­lent crimes, but it’s a prob­lem that’s in­creas­ing statewide and na­tion­ally. I how­ever would say that the econ­omy, the cur­rent so­cial and spir­i­tual cli­mate has some part to play in this.”

Ken Mal­colm, a crim­i­nol­ogy in­struc­tor at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity, agrees that there is no one cause, but he also be­lieves the sum­mer is a huge com­po­nent.

“Typ­i­cally, based on years of re­search, vi­o­lent crimes will oc­cur more of­ten in the hot sum­mer months,” Mal­com said. “In each of these [mur­der] cases [in New­ton County], the ma­jor­ity of them have been out­side of the [Cov­ing­ton] city lim­its. But again, there are a va­ri­ety of reasons, from do­mes­tic is­sues to drug use to drug sales. Each case is unique.”

Ac­cord­ing to Brown, the uptick in crime is not iso­lated to New­ton County alone.

“High crime rate is a na­tional is­sue at hand,” the Sher­iff said in a press re­lease. “There has been an uptick lo­cally in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. I be­lieve some of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors in­clude the lack of em­ploy­ment, not hav­ing the man­power to in­ter­act and pa­trol in those high crime ar­eas and the lack of com­mu­nity and re­li­gious based pro­grams.”

Though New­ton County is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a rise, num­bers show that the prob­lem is not solely within this com­mu­nity.

“I do not think New­ton County is unique,” Mal­com said.

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